Meditating really is a workout for the mind, according to scientists who have found it can make the brain bigger.
Practising simple meditation techniques such as concentrating on your breathing helps build denser grey matter in parts of the brain associated with learning and memory, controlling emotions and compassion.
Just eight weeks of meditation can produce structural changes large enough to be picked up by MRI scanners, American scientists have discovered.
Harvard neuroscientist Dr Sara Lazar said: ‘If you use a particular part of your brain, it’s going to grow because you are using it. It really is mental exercise. Basically, the idea is “use it or lose it”. It’s like building a muscle.’
In a study run by Dr Lazar and her colleagues, 16 volunteers had their brains scanned before and after an eight-week ‘mindfulness’ course.
After eight weeks, those who went on the course had thicker grey matter in several parts of the brain. These included the left hippocampus, a small horseshoe-shaped structure in the central brain involved in memory, learning and emotional regulation.
Other parts ‘strengthened’ were the posterior cingulate cortex – again important for memory and emotions; the temporo-parietal junction, involved in empathising; and the cerebellum, which helps coordinate movement.
Those who did not go on the course experienced no such structural brain changes.
Dr Lazar said mental exercise stimulated the neurons that make up grey matter to form denser connections among themselves. (MORE)
Source: Daily Mail